“After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father, which art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
(Matthew 6:9-13 – KJV)
The simplest prayer. We all know it. We’ve been reciting it since we were young children. But do we pray it? Do we let it be a part of of life, a part of our lifestyle? Do we let it into the workplace (as a part of who we are)? The men’s group at my church had a discussion for the better part of an hour about this prayer and what it means to our lives. Thought I would share some thoughts… Not necessarily a line by line annotated version, but a few random thoughts about this Bible passage/prayer that is central to our faith.
Our Father – He is Our Father. He is also MY Father. The first thing to think about with this prayer is the setting under which it was introduced. Jesus was taking a group of followers into a familial relationship with His Father, teaching them that God was their Father as well. In a modern context, we use this prayer in an assembly setting, and most times pray it as a group.
But can we pray the Our Father as individuals (“My Father, which art in heaven…Give me my daily bread… Forgive my debts… Lead me not into temptation) ? This becomes a challenge, when we put it into a personal context. It’s easy to say “as we forgive our debtors”, because I can rely on the rest of the group for support. But when I say “as I forgive my debtors”, I start hearing the crickets… That silence of knowing that this is all me. Can I forgive my debtors, my misbehaving children, my impatient coworker, the guy who just cut me off on the highway? In the workplace we always have to keep in mind, that our co-workers are people too, and have the same shortcomings that we have, and are imperfect as we are. If we are forgiving, will they see that despite our failings, there is a quality about us that is different (will they see Jesus in us)?
When we ask for “our daily bread”, again applying the I,me,my, (“my daily bread”), do I see the whole context? Will the Lord provide what I need? “Daily Bread” can be a lot of things, physical sustenance (literally, bread). It can be more abstract (financial, spiritual) in terms of being taken care of. Maybe it’s simply the ability to get over the butterflies in my stomach and make that customer presentation.
“And lead us (me) not into temptation”, into those areas of my life where weakness rules. The temptation to take shortcuts, to be less than completely ethical with my customers and colleagues, to fall in so many ways. But here the “us” part rings true, because of the ways in which group mentality can lead a person into activities that they should avoid. Maybe we should look at the flip side of this section of the prayer. “Lead me not into temptation”, but also “let me lead others away from temptation” (again an opportunity to let Jesus become real to others through your actions).
And I skipped over an early verse, because I think it’s the most difficult, yet most important. “Thy will be done”. This is where the rubber meets the road. I can pray, I can lead, but CAN I FOLLOW? Can I accept what God asks of me? At home, at work, at church? Listening for that still, small voice like Elijah? (1 Kings 19). Jesus prayed this more than once during his ministry, and we need to not only pray it, but MEAN it.
There is a lot more that I could delve into here, but I wanted to close with few brief points, and then leave some other ideas to come from readers.
Pray this prayer often
Pray the prayer by yourself at least as often as you pray it with others
Take it a line at a time. I think sometimes I recite, and it is rote, and not as full of life, as it can be
Read the next two verses of Matthew 6, as they might put a new emphasis on a couple of lines of this prayer
Read the Our Father without reciting it.
Read the verses in different Bible versions (there are some great online resources, such as Biblegateway.com, that make this process very simple).
I’d love to hear comments and additional ideas on this. Share comments, please.
Thanks to the men of St. Luke’s Cornerstone for a great discussion, and for some great food for thought. Many of your thoughts came through in this writing… God bless.